Planning and Managing Your Digital Project

Finding the best digital tool can sometimes be the most challenging part of a digital project. The bootcamp tutorials are designed to familiarize you with a range of digital methods and the types of digital tools that can be used in historical research. But your final project may require you to go beyond the tools and functionality covered in these tutorials.

Miriam Posner’s “How did they make that?” blog post is a useful starting place for thinking through how you get from a project idea to a finished digital project. In the blog post, she outlines project stages for creating the following types of digital projects:

  • A gallery of primary sources
  • A digital scholarly edition
  • A mapping project
  • A network visualization
  • Computer-aided text analysis
  • A historical 3D model
  • A longform, media-rich narrative

Posner also provides a list of questions for evaluating existing digital projects, but an adapted version of those questions can also be useful in figuring out goals and approaches for your final project.

  • Can you describe this project in one sentence?
  • What sources is it using?
  • Does it have an argument?
  • What types of technology does it use?
  • What additional resources does the project require (software, website, additional expertise, etc.)?
  • Who is the audience for the project, and how does the project reach that audience?

Having a clear vision for the project or being able to articulate what the project is trying to accomplish can help you successfully design and complete the project.

The Digital Resource Tools website (DiRT) is a resource that lets you search for available digital tools based on what type of data you are analyzing, as well as what digital approach or methodology you want to employ.

The Programming Historian website offers a wide range of tutorials for learning more about the digital tools historians use, as well as how they use them for historical research.

Miriam Posner also has an online “Highly Opinionated Resource Guide” that provides a detailed overview of tools, tutorials, and digital projects.

The internet provides access to a wide range of tutorials, programs, and troubleshooting guides, but figuring out what you are looking for and how best to find it can be overwhelming and challenging. The University of Victoria has created an introduction to Reading Technical Documentation that can help you figure out how to best ask and answer a technical question.

Northwestern University’s Knight Lab is a digital scholarship center that has developed a range of digital projects that can help you to create interactive data visualizations like timelines and maps with minimal technical knowledge or back-end coding.

Successfully finishing your digital project will require effective project management and collaboration. The simple answer is you should find a project management approach that works for your group and your project. But, establishing clear lines of communication and expectations for how the group will function can facilitate positive and meaningful collaboration.

A series of questions (from Miriam Posner) that are a good starting point:

  • How will we communicate (e.g., text messaging, email, Google group, Trello, etc.)?
  • Where will we store our files (e.g., Dropbox, Google Drive, server, etc.)?
    • Grinnell College provides all students with virtual storage space through OneDrive and Office 365.
  • When we work on a document collaboratively, how will we share it?
  • How often will we meet outside of class? Where will we meet? Do we need a regular meeting time?
  • What role is each member responsible for? (i.e. project manager, map coordinator, timeline coordinator, metadata coordinator, etc.)
  • Do all decisions need to be unanimous, or is “majority-rules” OK?
  • How will we prevent meetings from going off-track?
  • What are group members’ pet peeves, from previous collaborations? How will we avoid these?
  • What will happen to the project when we’re done with it? Will we maintain it, or let it expire?

Document these discussions, consult with your mentor, and be willing to revise if needed. The Development for the Digital Humanities website provides additional information for designing a project and working as a team. Your mentor, Librarians, Digital Liberal Arts Collaborative staff, and Data Analysis and Social Inquiry Lab tutors are available for additional feedback and support if needed.